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Daylight Sickness Time

Friday, March 14, 2014 - Updated: 7:05 AM

Suppose some sort of food became contaminated by a pathogen. Say e-coli found its way onto leaves of lettuce, or the rinds of someone's cantaloupe, or into the center of a great big lot of hamburger.

Or maybe listeriosis reared its ugly head.

Suppose that pathogen killed an average of 366 people every single year. What if the people who didn't die as a direct result of this contaminant were more likely to commit suicide, more likely to have heart attacks and strokes, and much less productive in the days following exposure to this dreaded infection? Imagine if nations plagued by this menace had lower SAT scores than more enlightened nations, which have eschewed it.

What if a vaccination (or maybe legislation) against this nightmare could save the United States $434 million a year? Or by other calculations as much as a billion bucks?

Imagine if this was a menace far more serious than shark attacks, which number around 75 annually, worldwide. Worse than U.S. deaths by lightning, at an average of 55 per year. More serious even than boating-related drownings, which come in at 347 per year in the U.S. Deadlier than tornados that average about 80 deaths per year.

How would you expect the American public to react? Demands for instant and widespread recalls? Insistence on changes in the way the foodstuff was prepared to prevent the pathogen from spreading among the populace? Panicked changes in what foods were purchased or where they were grown?

Probably those things and more. Talk shows would buzz. Activists would protest. Laws would be proposed and enacted willy-nilly, with little concern for common sense or effectiveness. And of course some people would be quick to blame farmers, even though most of us hate the darned thing, as do our poor cows, creatures of habit that they are.

However, we all quietly take just such a killer in stride, year after year, as we have for generations. Like sheep habituated to the nudging of the border collie, we trudge downstairs two Sunday mornings a year, to reset our clocks to keep the government happy.

This endless tinkering with time, perpetually perpetrated upon the populace in the name of saving energy, is making many of us sick. How many times have you succumbed to a cold or flu in the week after the change? It sends the whole nation into a spiral of jet lag and even sends many people to playing Farmville and Candy Crush Saga more than they normally do.

Does it work? In a word, no. Although we instituted Daylight Savings Time during World War l, recent studies suggest that we actually consume more energy thanks to the shift. For Pete's sake, the very premise is said to have originated with Benjamin Franklin, who thought to save candles by adjusting the clock.

Personally, I think we should all write or call our Congress folks and school them soundly. Changing the time twice a year is unnecessary and counter-productive.

As I said, if a pathogen killed and injured people on the scale that changing the clocks does, outrage would ensue. So let's get outraged and insist upon change. My personal choice would be to change the darned clocks half an hour just one more time, and then never mess with them again.

However, this seems to be a pretty unlikely scenario. Scientific American quoted Matthew Kotchen of the University of California, Santa Barbara, as saying, "I'm skeptical we could change daylight saving time on a national level, because we've become accustomed to it." He added, "We might want to consider it for other costs or benefits it could have."

Maybe we should all just refuse to cooperate, starting next fall.

It would be hard to deny that this has been a winter for the record books. With storm after storm blasting places more often associated with golf tournaments, sunshine and cold, sweet tea, small wonder that weather has been big news. The Great Lakes have frozen to near record levels, and ice breakers have logged four times their normal hours, according to ABC news.

Niagara Falls has also frozen over this winter. Twice.

Rumors abound of farms in this area having underground water pipes, which haven't frozen in generations, freeze repeatedly. Some folks we have heard about have dug up their pipes and just covered them with insulation and hay, because they kept freezing over and over again. No sense in digging more than you have to I guess.

Still, I didn't realize just how cold it had become until I saw a photo from a farm in Wisconsin. It showed a row of bright-eyed, happy-looking baby calves wearing strange little velcroed halters, with bright, red bags over their ears.

Intrigued, I looked further into what they might be. Turns out that they are calf ear muffs.

Although at first I thought they were homemade, and indeed the Internet abounds with plans for do-it-yourself bovine ear protection, these were made by a company from Iowa -- Sullivan Supply.

Seems in really cold weather out in the Upper Midwest, calves' ears sometimes get frostbitten. Sometimes they even freeze before their mamas can dry them off, even inside barns.

That isn't too hard for me to believe, by the way. We had a bull calf born on a relatively warm day last week, and although his ears were in no danger of frostbite, it took a long time to get him warm and dry. I'll bet he would have enjoyed a set of bossy (can I still use that word?) ear muffs.

One company that makes them, Marge's Muffs, says on its website: "I first designed the calf ear muffs in 1993 when we were showing our purebred cattle. We had a purebred bull calf born and he had frozen ears. I decided to sew something to help prevent that from ever happening again."

The company has expanded into producing everything from berry bags to auger covers, proving that great things can grow from small ideas.

Fultonville dairy farmer MARIANNE FRIERS

is a regular columnist. She blogs



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